Pro-Life Homily – Fr. Geoff Kerslake
Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 18, 2014
Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Do we really believe Jesus when he says this?
Contemporary society doesn’t believe Jesus. It thinks he was just a good man – someone with a strong social justice message who suffered fatal consequences for rocking the boat.
But if we take Jesus’ own words seriously – and isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do? – then, we know differently.
Jesus is THE way, THE Truth and THE Life – not a way, or one way among many other options.
The recent messages of the Holy Father Pope Francis emphasize this message – we are called to share with the world that Jesus is the way, truth and life. He suffered and died for my sins, your sins, all of our sins, so that we might be forgiven and reconciled with God. And Jesus wants to walk with us in the course of our daily life, accompanying us in our joys and sorrows.
Society tries to tell us that Christianity is just one value system among many others – that there is a competitive market for religious believers and Catholicism is merely one product sharing shelf space with many others. That’s not the Gospel Message and that’s not the message of the Church that must remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We heard at the Second Vatican Council that other religions have some elements of the truth within them – the Council spoke of ‘rays of the truth’ – but only the Catholic Church has the fullness of revelation, the whole truth. We don’t look down on other faiths, but we recognize that we have all that God wants us to know, not just some pieces or aspects.
Because we have the fullness of truth, we must share it with others. When you know what will make others ultimately happy, what gives meaning to this life, and the hope of eternal life to come, why wouldn’t we share it?
When something wonderful happens, like a promotion in our job or a good grade at school, or the joy of announcing a pregnancy, we are eager to share that good news. Why would we keep the Good News of Jesus Christ to ourselves? Don’t we want our friends to be happy? Don’t we want our friends to get to heaven? Indeed, don’t we want everyone to have the chance at happiness and heaven?
Because we love the Lord and we want our neighbour to be happy, we must share the Gospel in its fullness: that’s what being a disciple of Jesus Christ means.
When someone wonders what God looks like or how He behaves, we know we have only to look to Christ: “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” What is God like? Look at Christ because he is the fullest expression of the Father’s love. How do we become more like God? Become more like Christ, which we can do with the help of God’s grace and our cooperation as we try and live the fullness of the Gospel.
But the Gospel has a moral dimension as well as a spiritual one to it. As Christians, we must proclaim the Gospel and live by its values, calling our brothers and sisters to share in the truth, beauty and goodness of Christ and his message. How we do that is important too. Pope Francis in his encyclical wrote: “rather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel” (n. 168).
Recently Justin Trudeau, a prominent Catholic politician and role model for youth, pronounced that you had to be pro-choice to run as a member of the Liberal Party. Doing so, he undermined the principles of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. In fact, he attacked democracy itself by not allowing Members of Parliament to represent the views of their constituents.
As a Catholic Christian, he made an erroneous statement that, in fraternal charity and fidelity to the Gospel message, must be addressed. He appears to believe that someone could be a devout Catholic Christian and be pro-choice, disregarding the value of the human life developing within the womb. Like other politicians he seems to think that being pro-choice is about respecting people’s rights – but the essential, foundational right, that is the right to life, is being denied to the most defenceless and vulnerable members of our society – children in the womb.
Our archbishop responded to this grave situation in a statement issued to parishes and other Catholic agencies. He wrote in part: “the position of the Catholic Church in favour of life at all stages is clear and unchanging. A person who takes a position in contradiction to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the value and dignity of human life from the moment of conception to the moment of a natural death, and persists in this belief, is not in communion with the Church’s values and teaching, which we believe faithfully transmit for today the teachings of Christ.”
The archbishop went on to quote Pope Francis’ recent remarks in his encyclical: the “defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”
Being pro-life is not only something only for Catholics, it is a rational and logical position for everyone. Once we decide as a society that some human lives are not sacred, are not valuable or worthwhile, not worth protection, we have undermined the value and sanctity of all human life: human life becomes another, just another, commodity whose worth depends on someone else’s evaluation of its utility, convenience or worth. The horrors of the 20th century – the Holocaust, the purges of the Khmer Rouge, Stalin’s pogroms, the genocides in Rwanda and elsewhere – fundamentally were all a result of regimes denying the right to life to those they considered ‘not worthy’ of life or ‘not human.’
Today, in Canada, there is no legal restriction on abortions. There is no law – you can have an abortion at any time in the pregnancy right up to the moment of birth: we have no law in Canada at all, no restrictions at all despite the fact that a majority of Canadians agree that we should have at least some restrictions, as do most other countries. Many people don’t know this – they assume there must be some restriction, but there aren’t any restrictions. And now, it is even harder just to talk about this terrifying disregard of the worth of human life.
How can we have a just society if we cannot even discuss difficult questions? If we cannot have our views represented by our elected representatives?
No politician, regardless of the fervor of his or her personal faith, has the power, the authority or the right to tell Catholics they can be pro-abortion and be considered ‘in good standing’ with the Church. Like the Holy Father, I am not judging anyone’s personal relationship with the Lord, or presuming to judge his or her conscience. I am merely pointing out the obvious – no political leader can tell us that we can put aside the teachings of our faith and consider ourselves ‘in good standing’ with the Church’s fidelity to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
To be Catholic is to be someone who knows Christ and who follows him, regardless of popular opinion or expediency, because Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” who shows us in his person and teaching the Father and his love for all of humanity, and indeed all of God’s creation.
And let us take comfort in Jesus’ words to his disciples, words that he speaks to us today as well: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” because Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Let us pray for our politicians and all who lead us so that we may all enjoy the right to freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and especially the most foundational right, the right to life.
May God bless you.
Father Geoff Kerslake
A homily delivered at the 7:30 pm mass at the Cathedral, Notre Dame Basilica, in the Archdiocese of Ottawa.